Charles Warner Editor
September 6, 2013
UNION COUNTY — Owners of homes valued at $100,000 could soon be paying an additional $28 a year in property taxes if Union County Council approves the county’s first tax increase in six years.
When council meets in regular session on Tuesday, the agenda will include setting the county tax millage for fiscal 2013-2014. Council will consider whether or not to raise the county’s tax millage by approximately 7 mills, increasing the county’s operating millage from 101 mills to just over 108 mills.
During a special meeting of council earlier this week, Supervisor Tommy Sinclair pointed out that this would be the first time since 2007 that the county has raised its property tax millage. Sinclair said that the amount of tax millage a county is allowed to raise in a given year is based on the growth of the Consumer Price Index. He said that since 2007 the growth of the CPI would have allowed council raise taxes in all but one of those years, but that council had declined to do so.
Sinclair said that each mill levied adds an additional $4 to a property owner’s tax bill. He said increasing the tax levy by 7 mills means the owner of a home valued at $100,000 would pay an additional $28 a year in property taxes.
The setting of the millage will mark the conclusion of the 2013-2014 budget process which saw council grappling with a projected deficit of $1,350,741.99. Sinclair attributed the projected deficit to a combination of factors including a reduction in revenue from fee-in-lieu of taxes agreements with industry due to equipment depreciation; the $800,000 cost of implementing the new, federally-mandated narrowband radio communication system; and reductions in federal and state funding. Sinclair said that over the past several years the State of South Carolina has cut the local government funding the county receives by an average of $500,000 a year. He said increased fuel, utility, and insurance premium costs are also contributing to the deficit.
The budget approved by council earlier this year projects expenditures and revenues totaling $12,757,412. In the process, council reduced the projected deficit by reducing expenditures. Those reductions included reducing the hours of operation at the county’s recycling convenience centers which is projected to save the county $145,000 a year.
While these steps reduced the deficit they did not eliminate it. When approved by council in June, the 2013-2014 budget still had a deficit of $360,000.
In South Carolina, all municipalities and counties as well as the state are required to have a balanced budget each and every fiscal year. To balance the 2013-2014 budget, council included a tax increase. While it was included in the budget, council did not approve the increase when it approved the budget. The delay was due to the fact that because the value of a mill would not be determined until September council would not know until then how many mills it would take to cover the deficit and balance the budget.
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com.